- Last Updated: 10:59 AM, April 24, 2012
- Posted: 10:57 AM, April 24, 2012
LONDON -- Comedian Russell Brand brought some color to British politics on Tuesday as he gave evidence to a committee hearing about his battle with drug addiction.
The 36-year-old, who recently divorced singer Katy Perry, wore a black hat, gold chains and crosses and a torn black vest top for his appearance before lawmakers on the Home Affairs Select Committee.
Sporting long hair and a beard, the flamboyant star referred to lawmakers as "mate" during the lively, 30-minute hearing and addressed them by their first names as he fired off his views about how to combat drug use.
The committee, which is reviewing the British government's drug policy, was packed with people eager to catch a glimpse of the actor as he recounted his own "rough" experience.
Brand, who said he had beaten a heroin addiction that saw him arrested a dozen times, blamed his drug problems on emotional and psychological difficulties.
He said he was not calling for a "free-for-all" where everyone is able to take drugs but argued addiction should be treated like an illness instead of a crime.
Society should not "discard people, write them off on methadone and leave them on the sidelines" and should exercise more "love and compassion," he argued.
He dismissed the role of celebrities and said he would back decriminalization because he believes illegality is of no concern to users.
"I'm not a legal expert. I'm saying that, to a drug addict, the legal aspect is irrelevant," he said. "If you need to get drugs, you will. The criminal and legal status, I think, sends the wrong message. Being arrested isn't a lesson, it's just an administrative blip."
Apparently enjoying the session, Brand resisted attempts to hurry him up when chairman Keith Vaz tried to move on.
"Time is infinite. We can't run out of time," he quipped.
The actor has spoken frankly about his addictions to heroin and alcohol and has written two autobiographies. Writing on his website last July, after the death of singer Amy Winehouse, he said addiction should be treated like a potentially fatal illness.
"Addiction is a serious disease; it will end with jail, mental institutions or death," he wrote. "Now Amy Winehouse is dead, like many others whose unnecessary deaths have been retrospectively romanticized, at 27 years old. Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today."
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